May 31: A surprisingly important date in New York sports history

Joe NamathNew York Jets. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)
Joe NamathNew York Jets. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images) /
1 of 4
New York sports
Lou Gehrig, New York Yankees, circa 1938. (Photo by Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images) /

Looking back through New York sports history, May 31 is a surprisingly important date. Here are some of the events that transpired in on this day.

Here we are in the middle of a sports drought during the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, the country is in turmoil around us. Sports have always been an escape for people from “the real world.” We don’t even have that to fall back on right now.

While researching another story, I noticed the date May 31 kept popping up. I looked into it a little further and found out that several significant events took place on this day that impacted our New York sports teams. Of course, many more events happened on May 31, across the years, but I thought these were the most interesting.

1938: Iron Horse plays in 2000th straight game

Lou Gehrig‘s streak of 2,130 consecutive games played was one of the most hollowed records in all of sports. It stood for excellence and dependability. The streak began on June 1, 1925, when the Iron Horse delivered a pinch-hit single. The following day New York Yankees first baseman Wally Pipp wasn’t feeling well, so manager Miller Huggins scratched him in favor of the promising rookie.

On this day, 13 years later, Gehrig reached the 2000 consecutive games played mark. The New York Times featured him on the front page. Asked about his streak, he told the publication:

"“I like to play baseball and if I were to sit on the bench for a few games the worrying and fretting would take too much out of me.”"

Gehrig’s streak ended the next season. It was eventually broken by Cal Ripken Jr. in 1995. Even so, Gehrig was and is one of the most beloved figures in sports history. Anyone who hasn’t seen “Pride of the Yankees” should do so now.